Adjusting Cluster Removal Saves Time Without Affecting Production

Removing milker units more quickly should make the cow more comfortable, reduce the risk of mastitis and enhance animal well-being. ( Farm Journal, Inc. )

Simply adjusting your automatic cluster removal (ACR) setting on your milker units can save 27 seconds of cluster on-time but does not affect milk production, milk quality or teat health.

That’s the conclusion of a New York study that incorporated the change in one 800-cow herd and followed up with a recommendation to make the change in 20 more herds, all with positive results, says Paul Virkler, a senior Extension veterinarian with Quality Milk Production Services, Canton, N.Y.

“In general terms, reducing the milking time per cow 27 seconds adds up to a gain of 15.8 minutes per milking shift,” he says. “That 15 minutes could allow a producer an extra turn of cows each shift with no additional labor cost and no detrimental effects on milk production.”

Typically, clusters are set to be removed when milk flow drops to 1.8 lb per minute. Virkler simply requested herds reset the automatic cluster removal when milk flow dropped to 2.8 lb/min. From the cow’s perspective, says Virkler, removing the milker unit more quickly reduces the potential for overmilking and its related impact on teat tissue condition. That, in turn, should make the cow more comfortable, reduce the risk of mastitis and enhance animal well-being.

In the test herd, milk production, somatic cell linear scores and hyperkeratosis teat end scores were no different at the higher setting. Teat tissue condition was also better at the 2.8 lb/min setting, suggesting less over-milking to get that last pound of milk.

Virkler then identified a further 22 herds in upstate New York who might benefit from the practice, and recommended that 20 of those herds reset their clusters at 2.8 lb/min. “The feedback from these farm meetings was very positive with many of the farm teams expressing that they had not realized there was an opportunity area for improvement on their farm by adjusting the ACR settings,” he says.

Read the entire report on the research here.